Is Albert Pujols the Most Important Los Angeles Angel for 2014?
Last season was the worst season in Albert Pujols‘ career. As he tried to play through a plantar fasciitis injury, he saw his stat lines plunge to all time lows. Before last season Pujols was a career .323 hitter averaging 42 home runs a season. Last season in only 391 at bats, Pujols hit an abysmal .258 with only 17 home runs. Going into the third year of a 10-year, $240 million contract, the 34-year-old Pujols is hoping that the surgery he had six months ago that cost him the last two months of the season will fix the foot injury that has plagued him most of his career.
With the trade of power hitting outfielder/first baseman Mark Trumbo, the Los Angeles Angels‘ offense is going to need a healthy Albert Pujols if they want to compete in the much improved AL West. In Trading Trumbo, the Angels also sent away their backup first baseman. This is significant as Pujols is the only first baseman on the team’s 40-man roster. Pujols will need days off and will be in the designated hitter spot some nights to rest his surgically repaired foot, bringing up the question of who will play first base in his absence. The team signed veteran first baseman Carlos Pena to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training, but Pena is coming off of a season where he hit .208 with eight home runs in 280 at bats with the Houston Astros and briefly with the Kansas City Royals. It will be a lot to ask of Pujols to play the field on a regular basis if Pena has a rough spring and doesn’t make the team.
Last season the Angels added outfielder Josh Hamilton, the big fish on the free agent market, to give them what was supposed to be a very productive 3-4 combination in the lineup. Hamilton also had a down year last season by his standards, but anyone who thought that the Angels were going to get the Hamilton that hit 43 home runs and drove in 128 RBI in his last season with the Texas Rangers was setting themselves up for disappointment. Those days are behind Hamilton, but 25 home runs and 100 RBI should be a little closer to expectations. That is another reason why it is important for Pujols to get his home run stroke back and bring the average up to .300 again.
With Trumbo taking his lumber to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Josh Hamilton looking to rebound from last season, the Angels are going to need Pujols to be healthy and back to his MVP stature to contend in the West and make a run at a World Series title.
Jeremy Pari is a writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jallenpari “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google